“Hello, brother,” were the last words uttered by a man welcoming worshipers at one of the two New Zealand mosques where deadly shootings took place last week. According to this newspaper, “He had seen the gunman approaching, weapon in hand.” And this message of love was how he chose to respond.
This news tore into my heart for several reasons. First, of course, was the horror that the gunman could do such a thing. Then came compassion for the families of the dozens of worshipers who were killed and the dozens more who were wounded.
What happened next stirred me to action. At first it didn’t register for me that these incidents had occurred in mosques. When it did register, I was ashamed of my feelings: They were akin to mild relief that it hadn’t been a Christian church or a Jewish synagogue.
That’s when I had to face the sudden realization that I was harboring some prejudice. Maybe not a lot, but even a little prejudice is too much.
I recognized that I had some important work to do in order to pray more effectively for humanity, to counter the kind of prejudice that, when harbored and unchecked, can fester into hatred or even violence. I needed to broaden my love to include all people and to love more universally. If the greeter at the mosque could see a brother in a man fueled by hate, certainly I could see a brother in someone of a totally different faith tradition.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, writes in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals” (p. 13). Mrs. Eddy is using “Love” here as a synonym for God, infinite Love itself.
This idea was the cornerstone to my prayers to express a fuller sense of love. It reminded me that my love had to – and could – grow into that place of embracing everyone, everywhere.
As I asked God for help in understanding how to do this, I remembered that the Bible contains important instructions about loving. For example, Christ Jesus taught us that we are to love our enemies and those who have different beliefs than we do. The question is, How?
As I continued to pray, the answer came immediately: There is one God. Yes, there are key differences between Christianity and other theologies (including Islamic theology), but regardless of what we call Him – God, Jehovah, Allah – the spiritual fact remains that God is All. And the nature of this God is loving. Who or what does God love? His entire creation – all of us. God sees and loves us as His children, which includes everyone.
Being God’s children also has other implications. In essence, we all have one divine Parent who loves every one of us equally. God doesn’t know us or love us as mortals motivated to act on hateful or intolerant thoughts, but as the spiritual expressions of God’s love. That makes us all brothers and sisters. So rather than thinking, “I have to love ‘the other,’ ” we can instead recognize that there is no “other”; there is only our brother. We are spiritually related, all members of one universal family, the sons and daughters of divine Love.
Because we are the children of Love, the capacity to love everyone must be part of our spiritual DNA, our essential nature as God’s offspring. It is natural for us to love. As we come to realize this in our heart of hearts, we’ll find the obstacles aren’t so insurmountable. We have an innate ability to refuse to allow ignorance or prejudice to stand in the way of loving others.
I’m finding this happening in my own heart – feeling a more honest, deeper sense of love for everyone touched by the mosque shootings. Although I’m embarrassed about my initial self-discovery, I’m grateful that this subtle prejudice was uncovered to be dealt with. I’m asking God to forgive me and help me see all as my beloved family.
This action of consciously replacing even the slightest hint of dislike, distaste, or out-and-out prejudice with love is, to me, the ultimate way to begin to resolve acts of hatred in the world. And as we do this, we’ll find ourselves able to approach those who seem different than us and say from a heart full of love, “Hello, brother.”